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Henrik, one of our “scientists in residence” has written a long-awaited paper on tracking down external environmental noise using very basic tools. I will feature prominently on this blog and on the Hum Map website for the near future. I hope that this paper will not only help create a purer dataset for our project but will aid people who are suffering from nuisance, low-frequency noise that arises from classic anthropogenic sources.
The paper is written in two parts.
This facility is apparently open for tourists. I would very much like a Hum hearer to go inside for a little while and tell me what they experienced.
Looking at the Hum Map can be misleading, because heavy concentrations of Hum reports typically correlate with higher population densities. The regions of interest are where hum reports do not follow population density. One place in particular caught my eye: Vancouver Island, shown in the map below (for reference, Seattle and Vancouver are included in the screen shot).
Vancouver Island is fairly big at over 31, 000 square kilometres (about 12, 000 square miles), but its population is only about 750, 000 people. This generates a per capita Hum report concentration of about 1 Hum report for every 17, 500 people.
Now contrast this with South Dakota:
Four Hum reports among 875, 000 people. That’s a concentration of roughly 1 Hum report for every 210, 000 people. And along with North Dakota, parts of this region are home to one of the best optical fibre internet networks (http://dakotafire.net/article/broadband/). Internet penetration into home ranges from 73% to 80%, depending on the source you use. It could be even higher.
On a state by state or province by province basis and only on this quick and narrow examination, South Dakota has the lowest concentration of Hum reports. But that’s just an initial look at the Map. I expect others to do in-depth looks at the data, and to report more rigorous results.
Do contact me if you notice any Map points that look suspect or are obviously incorrectly geocoded.
This is my second post on this topic.
I searched the entire Wikileaks database, using “low frequency sounds”, “sound complaints”, “naval communication”, “Taos”, “Kokomo”, “The Hum”, “unexplained sounds”, and on and on for at least an hour. Absolutely nothing.
Given the frankness of its contents and the acute governmental embarrassment caused by Wikileaks, I am nearly certain that governments do not know what causes the Hum, or that it is completely unimportant to them.
Let me know if you are aware of any official documentation on the topic.
I hope you find these useful. NOTE: the KML file is edited by me and drives the live and updated version of the Hum Map. The raw database file is unedited, and contains duplicate entries, spam, offensive writing, and oddball commentary.
Here is the KML: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9t3eeh6QDFGbnY5VllpLXZJRm8/view?usp=sharing
Here is the raw spreadsheet in Excel format: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9t3eeh6QDFGeW5GUmEzRWhNVEE/view?usp=sharing
The original source is listed just below; I’ve pasted the abstract below that. This is not light reading; let me know if you need help translating this or if you are interested in full-text access.
- Effect of solar flares flux on the propagation and modal composition of VLF signal in the lower ionosphere
Bouderba, Yasmina; Nait Amor, Samir; Tribeche, Mouloud
The VLF radio waves propagating in the Earth-Ionosphere waveguide are sensitive to the ionospheric disturbances due to X rays solar flux. In order to understand the VLF signal response to the solar flares, the LWPC code is used to simulate the signal perturbation parameters (amplitude and phase) at fixed solar zenith angle. In this work, we used the NRK-Algiers signal data and the study was done for different flares classes. The results show that the perturbed parameters increase with the increasing solar flares flux. This increases is due to the growth of the electron density resulting from the changes of the Wait’s parameters. However, the behavior of the perturbation parameters as function of distance shows different forms of signal perturbations. It was also observed that the null points move towards the transmitter location when the flare flux increases which is related to the modal composition of the propagating signal. Effectively, for a given mode, the plot of the attenuation coefficient as function of the flare flux shows a decreases when the flux increases which is more significant for high modes. Thus, the solar flares effect is to amplify the VLF signal by reducing the attenuation coefficient.
The Physics of the Hum: A Primer on Propagation of Very Low Frequency (VLF) Radio Waves for the Layperson – Part One
(Note to working scientists and those with scientific credentials: I realize that I have glossed over and simplified some of this subject matter. This is not a scientific journal article, but rather an attempt to bring everyday people to the point where they can follow what I am proposing. If anybody would like to pursue the details of this with me, by all means contact me).
After I first noticed the Hum, a web search quickly led me to David Deming’s 2004 paper, “The Hum: An Anomalous Sound Heard Around the World”. My first reaction – fascination and relief – was similar to many people around the world who write to me when they find the Hum Map (www.thehum.info). In his paper, Deming lays out the logic and evidence that suggest the Hum could be caused by Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio waves used for naval communication. Building on that work, I propose a mechanism that explains the sometimes elusive behaviour of the Hum Phenomenon.
But many of us do not have strong backgrounds in physics or biology, and therefore I am presenting a series of brief crash courses on some basic topics so that greater numbers of people – hearers in particular – can understand what I am proposing. In this post, we will look at how VLF radio waves travel.
Read the primer on EM radiation if you have not done so. We are not discussing low frequency sounds here; that is a completely different type of energy.
FM radio stations fade out quickly as we move away from the transmitter. VLF energy, however, can travel tremendous distances – right around the planet, in fact. That is why the world’s major powers use VLF radio for communication. But VLF radio has another attractive property: an extremely large “skin depth”, which means that VLF radio waves can penetrate materials, such as ocean water, to a much greater distance than radio waves with higher frequencies, such as AM radio, microwaves, and so on. This is why VLF is used to communicate with submerged submarines. VLF radio waves can also penetrate earth as deeply as 150 m. I’ve written previously about the irony of the tinfoil hat being the icon for clinical paranoia, because microwaves have a very small skin depth and a thin layer of foil can, indeed, block and reflect microwave energy (which is why we don’t put aluminum foil in the microwave oven).
VLF waves travel (propagate) in three ways. First, and less important here, is the direct wave that travels line-of-sight distances directly to the receiver. Second is the “ground wave”, which runs between the surface of the Earth and the bottom layer of the ionosphere (an electrically charged layer in the atmosphere). The third is the “skywave”, in which the VLF wave bounces from the ground to the ionosphere and back to the ground, sometimes making multiple “hops” around the globe.
The Ground Wave. Within 100 to 300 km (60 to 180 miles) of the transmitter, the ground wave provides most of the energy of a received VLF signal. The strength of the signal can be sharply affected by mountain ranges, mineral deposits in the ground, ice fields, etc. (http://www.navy-radio.com/manuals/0101-1xx/0101_113-02.pdf). Because the signal spreads out in all directions, the ground wave signal becomes weaker as you move away from the transmitter. But something interesting happens beyond a certain distance from the transmitter: the waves start converging (coming together) and refocus on the opposite side of the planet, at a place called the “antipodal point”. This was first tested in 1925 by Tremellen, Eckersley, and Lunnon (http://ia801505.us.archive.org/5/items/noteonantipodalf182wait/noteonantipodalf182wait.pdf). Let’s take a specific example. The VLF transmitter at Cutler, Maine was, and could still be, one of the most powerful transmitters on the planet, on any frequency. The antipodal point for Cutler Maine is located in the Southern Ocean between Australia and Antarctica. The signal strength at that location coming from VLF Cutler will be much stronger than in, say, South America, which is thousands of kilometres closer to the transmitter. Contact me if you would like further references in this area. To find your antipodal point, click here.
The Skywave. First some basics about the Earth’s atmosphere – specifically, the layers that comprise the ionosphere. The ionosphere is a layer of electrically charged particles, created mainly by the impact of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun that strikes the atmosphere. Because the particles have an electric charge, they affect the propagation of radio waves. The ionosphere changes at night because the night side of the Earth is not being bombarded with the solar “wind” of UV and x-ray radiation. During a typical 24 hour cycle, layers will predictably form, disappear, and change in height. The ionosphere also changes with the seasons, as regions of the planet experience changing levels of solar radiation. The daytime and nighttime layers of the ionosphere are shown in the diagram below.
You will notice from the diagram above that the skywave will take a longer path to get to a receiver than the ground wave. That means that if you are in a location where you can receive both the skywave and the ground wave, you will receive two identical signals, slightly out of synch with each other. As explained in the primer on EM radiation, this creates what is called an “interference pattern”. I am simplifying this (and what is above) considerably, but in an interference pattern, there can be destructive interference (“dead zones”) and constructive interference (“hot spots).
But it gets more complicated. Suppose you are in, say, Portland, Oregon, relatively close to the massive Jim Creek VLF transmitter in Washington. The ground wave rushes toward you, but there is another ground wave that takes the long way around the planet in the opposite direction (great circle route) and strikes your location from the opposite direction. This can create what is called a “standing wave”, which oscillates in a particular location. http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/jres/68D/jresv68Dn1p27_A1b.pdf
Even professional physicists write about the massive complexity of this topic due to the fact that the models used to discuss this topic are just that – models, and the real world doesn’t always behave in the way that our equations might predict. The main idea from the above is that you could be located in a place that has very high levels of VLF energy, and yet be hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away from any transmitter. Also, local geography and geology cause variations in the strength of a received VLF signal. Changing your location by a little as a few dozen kilometers will change the signal strength, especially where oceans meet mountains and valleys/fjords. VLF travels differently at night from during the day, and differently during summer from in winter.
There have been many private investigations into the Hum. Most of these have not met rudimentary requirements for controlled scientific research. Indeed, numbers of people have taken a priori positions on the source of the Hum, and then directed their efforts to proving that they are correct in those assumptions, even in the face of obvious logical problems with their position. For example, there is a school of thought among hearers that cell phone towers are responsible for not only the Hum, but a sequela of other physical and medical symptoms. When asked how that explains why the Hum started in Britain in the 1970s when there was no widespread use of that technology, the subject is changed, or they retreat to a stubborn position that cherry picks evidence that fits the hypothesis. This generalizes across hypotheses, whether it be microwave towers, the LORAN navigation system, or high voltage electricity lines. Each of those carries logical flaws (Deming, 2004).
It is clear that some individuals performing their own research may be earnest but do not have a grasp of the basic science involved; for example, it is common to see writers who evidently do not understand the differences between sonic and electromagnetic energy, or that the word “frequency” can be used in several contexts. Others do not understand the concept of radio frequency (RF) skin depth, and because they cannot silence the Hum with foil shielding, they incorrectly assume that the source of the Hum cannot be electromagnetic radiation. Their speculations may be interesting, but they do not contribute to a useful research corpus. When scientifically literate individuals such as engineers, sound technicians, and so on, perform their own research, they are often overwhelmed with the multitude of independent variables that may be operating. Very few researchers anywhere in the world can draw upon journeyman or expert knowledge in: electromagnetism and radio theory, atmospheric theory including ionospheric heating and electron precipitation, bioacoustics, neuroscience, geology, and psychology. Therefore a team of experts is required. Such experts work for large universities who receive and give funding for research. As explained above, the Hum is not a priority at all, and therefore such a team of experts will never come together if they expect to get paid for their work.
One common aspect of Hum research is that investigators often to fail to grasp the background to the phenomenon and its scope. Currently a team is being assembled to look into the situation in Windsor, Ontario and, alas, there is no indication that they are aware of the previous research in this area and ongoing scientific investigations (including my own). Reviewing the related research literature is an early and key step in any formal research, yet the Windsor team, as is typical with many Hum investigations, are gathering their sophisticated sound recording equipment for deployment around the Windsor area.
For those who are aware of previous papers on this issue, we know the well documented results that lead to the startling but ultimately reasonable suggestion: the Hum may not be a sound in the typical sense of the word. There is ample evidence from governmental, campus-based, and individual studies that show how people can perceive various frequencies of electromagnetic (EM) radiation. One of the leading hypotheses surrounding the nature of the Hum, which I am testing soon, is that Very Low Frequency (VLF) electromagnetic radiation (<30 kHz) may be a prerequisite for the Hum. I am constructing a very simple device to test this in a double-blind controlled study of Hum hearers.
I’ll provide the initial results here when they are available.